A week after saying he could become "the most powerful guy in the world" by negotiating the release of jailed U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae, former NBA star Dennis Rodman seems to have lowered the expectations for his latest trip to North Korea considerably.
Before catching a flight to Pyongyang to start a five-day visit Tuesday, Rodman told Reuters in a telephone interview from Beijing: "I'm not going to North Korea to discuss freeing Kenneth Bae. I've come out here to see my friend -- and I want to talk about basketball."
The friend he's referring to is a rather controversial one -- North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, whom Rodman met and spent a lot of time with during a so-called basketball diplomacy trip for the "Vice" television news program earlier this year.
Rodman told the group of reporters who met him at the airport in Beijing that he expects his current trip, sponsored by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, to take a similar tone.
"I'm just trying to go over there to meet my friend Kim, the marshal," Rodman said. "Try to start a new basketball league over there, stuff like that."
The basketball Hall of Famer seemed to have much higher aspirations for his trip when he spoke to the Huffington Post last week.
"I will definitely ask for Kenneth Bae's release," Rodman said, via CNN.com. "I will say, 'Marshal, why is this guy held hostage?' I could try and soften it up in that way."
He added: "If the Marshal says, 'Dennis, you know, do you want me to let him loose?' and then if I actually got him loose -- and I'm just saying this out the blue -- I'd be the most powerful guy in the world."